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Halloween: Why Cats, Bats, Owls, Spiders, and Toads?

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Here in Louisiana we say, "Let the good times roll!" Holidays are celebrated with crafts, costumes and decorations, to everyone's enjoyment.

Zee, the black cat participates in a Halloween decoration.

Zee, the black cat participates in a Halloween decoration.

Animals That Go Bump in the Night

So many of our Halloween symbols are animals. Black Cats, Bats, Owls, Spiders and even Toads have all become a part of Halloween. This article will give you some insight into how this all came about and will also provide you with the real facts about each of these animals. You'll find ideas, poems, books and information that will help you learn and/or teach about these often misunderstood animals as well.

The Animals of Halloween

What makes Halloween spooky? All the night animals, of course. All those things that go bump in the night.

 ~ The stories about the bats that suck your blood and fly in your hair.

 ~ The spiders that spin their sticky webs.

 ~ The owls, once thought to be harbingers of evil, that who-hoot at you and then fly down silently and snatch up their prey.

 ~ And let's not forget the witches' familiar, the cat.

 ~ The little toad even got a bad rap in ancient times.

Our superstitions about animals and their association with Halloween has been passed down through the generations and cultures. Today it makes great, spooky fun, but we know that most of the superstitions are untrue.

A young brown bat finds shelter under our back carport.

A young brown bat finds shelter under our back carport.

To the people of the middle ages, who feared anything that they didn't understand, just the way bats looked was enough to link them with evil and witches. When you add the fact that it was thought that witches used them in their brews and that bat blood was an ingredient in an ointment that witches rubbed on their bodies before attending a Sabbath, then bats were destined to be a symbol of Halloween.

After all, Bats fly through the night (using their radar) to avoid objects and catch their insect prey. But people of the middle ages knew little about science. Bats also gather in large numbers in dark, caves, sleeping with their wings wrapped around them just like the long black cloaks that witches wear.

In South America, the vampire bat drinks the blood of animals, including humans, but most other bats help humans by eating thousands of insects each night. The other bats eat fruit.

Because of superstition and misunderstandings, the bat has become a permanent part of Halloween.

Largest Bats

The Bat

Theodore Roethke

By day the bat is cousin to the mouse.

He likes the attic of an aging house.

His fingers make a hat about his head.

His pulse beat is so slow we think him dead.

He loops in crazy figures half the night

Among the trees that face the corner light.

But when he brushes up against a screen,

We are afraid of what our eyes have seen:

For something is amiss or out of place

When mice with wings can wear a human face.

Amazing Bats

Author Unknown

Amazing bats like to eat ---

Thousands of bugs for a tasty treat.

Flying through the moonlit air ---

Traveling here and traveling there.

Hibernating when the weather's cold,

Gathered with hundreds of friends, I'm told.

Many bats are endangered, I'm sad to say ---

There are fewer and fewer bats every day.

Be kind to bats, that's the thing to do ---

Tell your friends and your family too!

The call of a screech owl is an eerie sound. This is an eastern individual which raised young in a wood duck box in our backyard.

The call of a screech owl is an eerie sound. This is an eastern individual which raised young in a wood duck box in our backyard.

In ancient Greece, the owl was sacred and was a familiar of the Goddess of wisdom, Athene. But in Rome, owls were harbingers of evil.

Europeans in the middle ages feared the owls stare and its eerie call. The Screech Owl, with its witch-like scream was the most feared. In fact, at that time it was believed that witches could turn into owls that would trick the unsuspecting traveler.

Today, some cultures and superstitious people believe that the call of a screech owl signals death or a disaster.

So that is why owls have become part of our Halloween decorations and parties.

Mr. Owl

Edna Hamilton

I saw an owl up in a tree,

I looked at him, he looked at me;

I couldn't tell you of his size,

For all I saw were two big eyes;

As soon as I could make a dash,

Straight home I ran, quick as a flash!

Barred Owl

Star Noir Black Cat

Our beautiful and very photogenic black cat.

Our beautiful and very photogenic black cat.

Black Cats

Did you ever wonder why one of the favorite symbols of Halloween is a black cat?

In ancient times, cats have been a symbol of magic and power. Witches had cats as familiars, but these cats came in all colors, not just black. During the "witch trials" many innocent cats were killed along with the so called witches, because their accusers thought that they were the witches' familiar. Even after the trials, people distrusted cats because of the stealthy way they move, those sinister yellow eyes and their calm demeanor during scary times. Since most cats look dark colored at night, the black cat became linked with witches, the Druid Samhain and the night, thus becoming a part of Halloween.

There were many sayings about cats:

~ Never let a cat into the same room with a corpse. It might be a demon and turn the dead soul into a vampire.

~ A ship with a cat on board is never wrecked, for the cat acts as a counter-charm.

~ Honest as a cat when the cream is out of reach.

~ A cat that sits with its back to the fire is raising a storm.

~ If a cat rubs against you, expect good luck. It it yawns, opportunity awaits.

A Tall Tale Halloween Story

This spider is perfectly camouflaged as it waits for its prey to land on a sunflower.

This spider is perfectly camouflaged as it waits for its prey to land on a sunflower.

Spiders


Spiders work tirelessly to spin their webs each night in hope of capturing some insect prey, but these webs and their makers have become associated with haunted houses and graveyard crypts. Also, the poisonous Black Widow spider, with it's black and red colors just looks evil and her bite can be deadly.

Most gardeners welcome spiders because they are like having a pest control service that works 24/7 for free. But none the less, Spiders and Spider webs are an integral part of our Halloween decorations.


Nurse spider watches over her young.

Nurse spider watches over her young.

Spider Facts

A Spider - Author Unknown

A spider spins

A web all day.

She has no time

To come and play.

She sits and waits

On a thread nearby

Until she traps

A delicious fly.

Black Widow Spider

Poor Unpopular Toads

Round about the caldron go;

In the poisoned entrails throw.

Toad, that under the cold stone,

Days and nights hast thirty-one

Swelter'd venom sleeping got,

Boil thou first i' the charmed pot!

from William Shakespeare's, Macbeth

Because of a toads self defense system of excreting a skin irritant, people in Europe during the time of the "witch scare" thought that they were poisonous and that witches made familiars of toads.

Today we know that toads are very helpful creatures that eat harmful insects so they are good to have in the garden. Toads skin absorbs water and this is why they can appear to swell up "magically". Toads are wonderful little creatures that can live as long as thirty-five years.

But because of their early association with witches, have become a small part of Halloween.

Croak! Croak!

Research the animals of Halloween.

  1. Vampire bats - Do they all drink human blood?
  2. Screech owls - Why do they make that sound?
  3. Black widow spiders - Do the females always eat their mate?
  4. Which species of owls hoot?
  5. Do black cats really cause bad luck? Why or why not.
  6. How do spiders help the environment?
  7. What do bats eat?
  8. Discover the life cycle of the frog.
  9. What is the name of the only mammal that flies and how do their wings work?

More Teaching Ideas

Have the children:

  • Use the poems provided as a creative writing springboard.
  • Write their own stories or poems about the animals.
  • Act out or illustrate the poems or stories.
  • Read stories and books about nocturnal animals.

Dax, the Cat, Reading About Stellaluna, the Bat!

naturally_native_halloween

© 2008 Yvonne L B

Hoot at us!

best-writter on October 29, 2012:

Interesting lens. I learned a lot of things. I like the photos.

SteveKaye on October 27, 2012:

What a wonderful article filled with great photos and valuable info. Thank you for publishing this lens. I enjoyed my visit here.

adragast24 on September 23, 2012:

Liked this lens but I am a bit disappointed as I was planning to make a very similar one... You beat me to it :p

Tony Bonura from Tickfaw, Louisiana on August 29, 2012:

Of course these animals got their Halloween rep because they are all pretty creepy animals when you come right down to it. Would you want most of them in your bed? Didn't think so! Really enjoyed your lens!

Tonyb

bordercollieluvr on July 13, 2012:

Halloween is my fav. holiday - so I enjoyed this information. Thanks for a great lens.

RuntFarmSeries on October 16, 2009:

What a great lens! Very fun to read with a ton of amazing information and resources. When you get the chance, I'd love it if you'd visit my lens and say hello.

bahalloween on October 12, 2009:

This is a great idea to teach children about why certain animals became synonymous with Halloween. The toddler costumes are very cute and I love the pet costumes. My friend recently purchased a couple of them for her kitty cats. Too funny! Not meant for cats at all.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on October 12, 2009:

[in reply to grannysage] Well that's a relief! I'd hate to think that even evil medieval witches would throw little bats into a pot. I didn't know that the holly leaf was called bat's wool. Like 90% of the people, I took Shakespeare's poem literally. :) Thanks for clearing that up.

grannysage on October 11, 2009:

Very fun lens. I love the toddler costumes. I've had the pleasure of buying the costume for my grandsons since they were born.

Just to add to the conversation, the wool of bat and eye of newt referred to in Shakespeare's poem were actual herbs. Bat's wool was holly leaf. So witches probably weren't stewing up real bat parts. *grins*

Frankie Kangas from California on October 25, 2008:

Excellent, informative and fun lens! 5 stars. Bear hugs, Frankster

ElizabethJeanAl on October 24, 2008:

Welcome to the Totally Awesome Lenses Group.

Lizzy

Mortira on October 22, 2008:

What a fun lens! I loved all of the Hallowe'en animal lore. *****

Patricia on October 09, 2008:

Great lens! Yes, you can copy my help rescue animals things, though I am sure exactly what you are referring to

Patricia on October 09, 2008:

Great lens! Yes, you can copy my help rescue animals things, though I am sure exactly what you are referring to

anonymous on October 03, 2008:

Great idea!

Actually kids get scared of Animals, but feel happy to see them from a long distance. I like your creativity, the lens has provided a wide range of Halloween Costumes. Animal Costumes for People at Amazon are amazing. Kids enjoy wearing such type of costumes for Halloween.

Thanks for your valuable tips.

tdove on September 24, 2008:

Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

ChristiannaGarrett-Martin on September 19, 2008:

I loved the lens! Really Good. Don't you just love Halloween? :)

Christianna.

http://www.squidoo.com/Sugar-Gliders-

The Homeopath on September 18, 2008:

Oooh, spooky. But where are the ravens? Hmmm? LOL

OldGrampa on September 18, 2008:

Thank you naturgirl7 for visitng my lens Halloween Fun lens and for rating it. I think our lenses are a good complement to each other being different though about the same subject. I have added you to my favorites!

OldGrampa on September 18, 2008:

Nice Halloween lens. You did a great job.

anonymous on September 18, 2008:

Another Excellent Lens. Your the best.

yourbeautymark on September 18, 2008:

Great lens. Nice job! (I'm weird - I think bats are cute.)

WritingforYourW on September 17, 2008:

A fun lens, good job. I like the poems :)

VBright on September 17, 2008:

What an interesting and informative lens! I LOVE black Cats. In fact, if you OWN a black cat, they are good luck. (or so the superstition says)

5 black kitty stars for YOU

anonymous on September 11, 2008:

Your lens is SPOOKTACULAR!

Drop by my Halloween Fun Stuff lens and say hello!

Tiddledeewinks LM on September 08, 2008:

Creative idea for a lens!

rebeccahiatt on August 25, 2008:

Very nice lens. Great photos. Bats ugh!